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Policy and Practice Reviews ARTICLE

Front. Educ., 29 January 2020 |

Warnock 40 Years on: The Development of Special Educational Needs Since the Warnock Report and Implications for the Future

  • 1Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
  • 2Institute of Education, UCL, London, United Kingdom

The report of the Warnock Committee “Special Educational Needs,” published in 1978, provided the first comprehensive review of special educational needs (SEN) in England and the basis for subsequent legislation, from the Education Act 1981 to the recent Children and Families Act 2014. The Warnock Report has been highly influential with respect to the development of both national and local policy and practice for SEN, primarily in England but also in the UK generally and internationally. We conceived the “Warnock 40 Years On” research topic published in this journal as an opportunity to examine developments for children and young people with SEN or a disability (SEND) since the Report's publication. As editors of this research topic, in this paper we provide an overview of major elements within SEND, drawing on both the individual constituent papers and the broader policy and research literature. We examine the origins and precursors of the Warnock Review, including then current progressive conceptual development and practice, leading to an examination of the Review. We explore the legislative structure arising from the Report and implementation of the SEND system—from the Education Act 1981 onwards. We critically examine a number of key aspects of the Warnock Report and how these developments of the SEND system have taken these forward, including: categorization of SEN; provision made to meet the special needs of children and young people with SEN or a disability, including inclusion; early identification and intervention; the important rights and role of parents; prevalence of different types of SEN and the complex interaction between SEN and a range of factors, including social disadvantage and ethnicity; and a range of SEND research. Finally we consider the implications for future development of the SEND system, in particular whether its limitations can be addressed better by “patching up” the system or by “system change.” Although focused on England, this paper has relevance—as did the Warnock Report—to SEND internationally.


The report of the Warnock Committee in 1978 (Department for Education Science, 1978) was a landmark event for the education of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN). Although there had been earlier important government reports, these addressed more specific issues (see Cole, 1989, for a review). The Warnock Committee in comparison produced a wide-ranging examination of the whole SEN system of the time and, taking into account recent research and existing progressive practice, the Committee produced a report that formed the basis for substantial conceptual, administrative and practice changes.

Building upon the ideas and recommendations within the Report, we aim to produce an overview of the developments over the past 40 years, drawing on other constituent papers in the Warnock 40 Years on Research Topic. We examine conceptualisations of SEN including prevalence; the development of the legislative and managerial systems at national and local levels, including SEN within the overall system for education; the role of parents; special provision and its funding; SEN research, including inclusion; and implications for the future. Although our focus is on developments in England, our review has relevance for SEN internationally.

We first review developments prior to the Warnock Report and their influence on the Report, identifying the paradigm shifts that took place; the basis provided by the Report for the new legislation for SEN, initially the Education Act 1981; and then significant lessons from the Report. Secondly, we explore the evolution of SEN relative to a number of the topics identified by the Warnock Committee for future development. Here we draw in particular on the constituent papers of the Research Topic. Finally, we look forward from the current position, around 40 years after the Warnock Report, which has substantially influenced SEN not only in England but also in the rest of the UK and beyond. This is timely within the English context as the Department for Education is undertaking a major review into support for children with SEN, due to report in early 2020 (

The Warnock Report

Precursors, the Enquiry and Subsequent Legislative Structure

There can be few Committees of Enquiry whose main achievement was to counter the out-dated conceptualization underlying its terms of reference (written in 1973):

“to review the educational provision in England, Scotland and Wales for children and young people handicapped by disabilities of body or mind…together with arrangements to prepare them for entry into employment” (Department for Education Science, 1978, p. 1).

Those working in this field had moved on to a paradigm shift in thinking and practice during the 50s and 60s, and had lobbied for the Enquiry, as a way to establish the official status of this shift, and ultimately to enable legislation which would underpin this. In this section of our paper we aim to:

• summarize the development of thinking that triggered the Warnock Committee Report

• outline how the Warnock Report set out the principles of the paradigm shift, and ways to further the infrastructure to support it,

• describe and consider the consequential legislation that was put in place at that time.

• provide a brief summary of research findings on the implementation of the legislation.

The Development of Thinking That Triggered the Warnock Committee Report

The second chapter of the Warnock Report offers a detailed account of the patterns of provision for children and young people with disabilities from the late 1800's onwards to 1973 when the Warnock Committee was set up. The context of the Warnock Report was shaped by the 1944 Education Act in England, which formulated 11 categories of children and young people with “disabilities of body or mind,” and by the pattern of provision for their education. The categories were defined by the medical terminology of the various disabilities identified. Provision ranged across special schools dedicated to these categories, and corresponding special units within mainstream schools. This arrangement accordingly covered those with different levels of “handicap,” and those whose level of “handicap” was such that they were regarded as “ineducable” and so deemed not suitable for provision within the prevailing education system. At the other end of the “handicap” range, there were those children and young people who were already included in mainstream schools.

The views underlying this pattern of provision at the time were thus that “handicap” was determined by disabilities of “body or mind” within the children and young people themselves. However, from about the 1950s onwards, psychologists and others working within the field began studies that indicated the need for a greater differential analysis of cognitive, and other components of disability. Such developments in special education occurred in the United States (e.g., Cruickshank, 1976; Kauffman and Hallahan, 1976); in the realm of those regarded as “ineducable,” there were psychologists in the UK who were extending the scope for more “personalized” approaches (Tizard, 1964; Clarke and Clarke, 1965) and educators (Schonell, 1942; Segal, 1967). This whole area of development showed that the concept of “handicap” should be regarded as the product of the interaction of factors within individuals (their disabilities) and factors within their environment—such as their education and upbringing, as well as their social context. This “interactive” conceptualization amounted to a paradigm shift in thinking and led to a new terminology of “special educational need” to describe the outcome of this interaction. Within the UK, Professor Ronald Gulliford developed this terminology in a book he authored (Gulliford, 1971).

The paradigm shift itself linked up in practice with an increasing concern about the “rights” of individuals, which was foremost in the concerns of the parents of the children and young people. Parents formed themselves into pressure groups to influence the setting up of targeted educational approaches to meet their children's needs, and also to gain access to education for those who had been labeled “ineducable.” This lobbying generated a government Education Act in 1970, which required Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to give all those living in their areas access to educational provision. Correspondingly, the Statutory Assessment procedure was altered, requiring LEAs to include education professionals such as educational psychologists in the decision making about educational provision for children and young people (Department for Education Science, 1975). Even so, statutorily, decision making about designated provision still had to involve a school medical officer.

The Warnock Enquiry

All the above activity led the Secretary of State for Education (Margaret Thatcher) to set up, in 1973, an Enquiry with the terms of reference above, paradoxically using the—by then—“old terminology.” The Committee included a range of 26 largely educational, medical and academic professionals, and one parent (of two hearing impaired children). The chairperson appointed was Mary Warnock, at that time a senior research fellow in philosophy at an Oxford college. She is recently reported to have surmised that she had been chosen because “I'd been the headmistress of an [academically high achieving] school and was thought to be interested in education….So I came with perhaps a useful ignorance of the whole subject” (Webster, 2019a, p. 12). She certainly managed her colleagues well, because in presenting Mrs. Thatcher with the final report in 1978, she was able to claim that: “On all our main conclusions and recommendations we were in complete agreement (Warnock Report, p. iv). She also stated that the Committee had made its recommendations in an “awareness of financial constraints,” but acknowledged that in the long term, “the recommendations would require substantial additional resources”[p. iv].

The Committee commissioned a range of information gathering, and also visited provision in other countries. The findings covered a comprehensive relevant range of issues, but at this point reference will only be made to some of the main ones identified in the Enquiry. The issue of rights to education was clearly formulated in the Warnock Report, para 1.4.

• “The purpose of education for all children is the same, the goals are the same, but the help that individual children need………will be different.”

Earlier in the paragraph the “goals” are specified as:

• “to enlarge knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding, and thus [his] awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment.”

• “to enable [him] to enter the world after formal education is over, as an active participant in society, and a responsible contributor to it, capable of as much independence as possible.”

The Report's specification of these goals is significant, since the Warnock Committee's terms of reference did not convey such a comprehensive view of the purpose of these children's education “to prepare them for employment” (p. 1). The Report acknowledges the paradigm shift in the understanding of children's SENs in its repudiation of the categorization of children (para 3.24):

• “Categorisation perpetuates the sharp distinction between two groups of children: the handicapped and the non-handicapped.”

• para 3.25: “categorisation focusses attention on only a small proportion of all those children who are likely to require some form of special educational provision…We believe that the basis for decisions ….should be… [on] a detailed description of special educational need.”

The Report acknowledges also that this formulation implies that SEN should be considered in relation not only to the nature of “needs,” but also to the definition of the degree of need for “special” provision. The Warnock Committee reviewed a wide range of epidemiological studies of “prevalence” at that time, and concluded (para 3.17) that:

• “about one in six children at any one time, and up to one in five children at some time in their school career will require some form of special educational provision.”

• in addition, the Warnock Committee accepted that around 2% of children had SENs of a high degree of complexity and severity under the prevailing arrangements (para 4.1).

All these considerations led to the affirmation that “special educational provision” should be regarded as integral to general education, and not as separate from it. It also implied that children's SEN should be met by a continuum of “special” provision, to match the continuum of children's SEN (para 3.38):

• it encompasses the whole range and variety of additional help, wherever it is provided and whether on a full or part-time basis.

The Warnock Committee thus recognized the range of provision that was already made to meet children's SENs in mainstream schools, and so endorsed the principle of integration.

The assertion of the above principles formed the foundation for the very wide range of administrative and organizational analyses and recommendations of Warnock Committee such as the involvement of parents, the assessment processes of children's needs, and the crucial requirement for collaboration among the responsible education, health and social services. The details of these will be considered in relevant places in the paper. We now go on to consider the legislation which was enacted to follow up the Report's recommendations.

The Legislative Structure Following the Warnock Report

The Education Act 1981

The publicity about the deliberations of the Warnock Committee already in itself led to reviews among the various parts of the infrastructure—notably the LEAs—of their policies and practice. The government initiated a consultation in the form of a White Paper in preparation for an Act in 1981. The then Secretary of State Keith Joseph was aware of the Report's statement that increased funding would be required, and so he delayed the implementation of dedicated legislation. As it turned out, in 1983 there was a reduction in the total school population, which implied a potential reduction in the education budget and so a possibility to put the Act into force presented itself (Goacher et al., 1988).

The Education Act 1981 tackled the issue of the definition of SEN in an idiosyncratic way. section 1(1) stated: “A child or young person has “special educational needs” if he has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him.” The degrees of “learning difficulty or disability” are described in section 1 (2) in relation to (section 1 (2) (a)) as “having a significantly greater difficulty than the majority of children of his age,” and in section 1 (2) (b) as having a “disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools…” Special educational provision is defined in section 1 (3) (a) “additional to or otherwise different from provision made generally for children of his age in schools…”

Therefore, the definitions are relative, and based on judgements of the degree to which “generally made” provision is insufficient to meet individual children and young people's need, and emphasizing that “special education” is integral to mainstream provision. This relativity has, not surprisingly, been the bane of bureaucratic and legal decision-making ever since, despite the fact that it has “real-life” validity (e.g., in determining judgements about an individual's funding eligibility), as is examined in the paper in this Research Topic by Cullen and Lindsay (2019).

The Act followed the Report's staged approach to assessment, and refers to the point at which the LEA concludes that a child's SENs “call [for it] to determine the special educational provision [as defined above] that should be made for him,” The LEA will (section 7 (1) make a Statement of his SENs' and (section 7 (2)) “it shall be the duty of the authority to arrange that the special educational provision specified in the Statement is made for him.” In the perennial climate of financial constraints this LEA “determination” and its consequent duty to provide, has offered parents a “security” which, by definition, schools themselves are unable to ensure for their children, a problem that still exists as indicated in the papers in this Research Topic by Daniels et al. (2019) and Lamb (2019).

In relation to children's rights to inclusion within mainstream schools, the Act states that where the LEA maintains a Statement for a child, the LEA has the duty (section 2 (2)) to “secure that he is educated in an ordinary school” provided that (section 2 (2)) is compatible with:

• the parents' views, and section 2 (3):

(a) “his receiving the special educational provision that he requires;

(b) the provision of efficient education for the children with whom he will be educated;

(c) the efficient use of resources.”

Needless to say, this has been seen as taking away with the one hand, what was offered with the other!

One of the main criticisms which were made about the Act, was that only two of the sections covered the “18 percent” of children with SEN. This distribution of emphasis was more clearly corrected in Circular 1/83 (Department for Education Science, 1983), presented to parliament after a pilot research project which the then government charged the Institute of Education, London University (Wedell et al., 1982) to carry out. The research looked into the lessons that could be learned from the implementation of the Circular 2/75 (Department for Education Science, 1975) assessment procedures described above.

Circular 1/83 replaced Circular 2/75 and details the Statement procedure. Its initial sections set out how the paradigm shift could facilitate the decision-making. This was commented on when the Circular was presented in parliament. It was directed at the LEAs, as well as the District Health Authorities and Social Services Departments. The Circular emphasized the following points:

• LEAs should remember their responsibility for all children with SEN and their parents;

• the focus of assessment should not just be on the child's disability, but on the child's personal resources and on the help and support at home and school;

• assessment should not be an end in itself, but rather a means of arriving at an incremental understanding of the child's learning difficulties, to aid in decisions about planning help;

• assessment is a continuous process, drawing on a range of advice and on learning from the outcomes of intervention;

• the child should be seen as a whole person, and there should be a partnership between the teachers and the parents and other professionals. The feelings and perceptions of the child should be taken into account. There should be frankness and openness on all sides, and this should be extended to older children.

• advice from professionals in all services should lead to a proper understanding of the child's needs;

• LEAs should provide guidance to all schools on identifying, assessing and meeting children's SENs taking into account local circumstances. Professional involvement should progress from the teacher and head teacher to outside professionals, including health and social services. Parents should be kept fully informed. Schools should establish lines of effective communication with all those involved, so that help could be offered before situations become critical.

• Governors have responsibility to ensure that teachers are aware of approaches to identifying and meeting children's SENs, and LEAs should encourage in-service training accordingly.

The rest of the Circular's recommendations deal with the details of the Statement procedure, and of how to recognize the need for “different” and “additional” provision. An Appendix is also provided as an aide memoire for all those contributing to assessment, to promote an interactive understanding of the child's needs, the aims to which provision should be directed, and the facilities and resources required—the paper by Dockrell et al. (2019, this Research Topic) illustrates that the alignment of these considerations still presents problems, for example in the identification of, and provision for, children and young people with developmental language disorder. It will become evident in later sections of this paper that Circular 1/83 provided a blueprint for the successive Codes of Practice associated with subsequent Acts covering children and young people's SEN.

Further Research on the Implementation of the New Legislation

Following the pilot project carried out during the development of Circular 1/83 (Wedell et al., 1982), the DES commissioned further substantial projects on aspects of special educational provision. One of these was directed specifically at the implementation of the new legislation and was again carried out at the University of London's Institute of Education (Goacher et al., 1988). This project broadly reviewed the management of change by the education, health and social services in local areas in their implementation of the legislation. Seen in retrospect, the findings offer a significant overview of the initial stages of some of the issues which still beset the implementation of the legislation following 1981 Act. A further project on inter-service decision-making was jointly funded by the Department of Education and the Department of Health (Evans et al., 1989).

These research programmes provided a baseline for the development of the new legislative procedures. Since that time, there have been many changes in attempts to improve deficiencies in the system, not least the development of a Code of Practice to guide policy makers, professionals and parents, which is now in its third incarnation (Department for Education and Department of Health, 2015—see also Castro-Kemp et al., 2019; Cullen and Lindsay, 2019; Lindsay et al., 2019, this Research Topic). In the next section, we explore the developments, driven by practice, research and policy changes—often to the main education system or the macro political system, for example the post-2008 austerity policy. These examples are all related to significant aspects of the Warnock Report and its identification of subsequent changes.

UK Government's Developments Post-Warnock

Educational Context

When the Warnock Committee undertook its work the educational context relating to schools was relatively simple. Over 90 per cent of schools were state schools, run by LEAs which were departments within local councils: cities, towns and counties of England. Schools had governing bodies but these had limited powers. Finance was essentially managed by the LEAs, who employed teachers and other staff. There was no national curriculum: curricula were determined by schools in conjunction with LEAs, which employed educational advisers to work with schools. Educational psychologists were also employed by LEAs, apart from a handful of independent practitioners. About seven per cent of schools were independent, including some special schools. With respect to special education provision, in addition to that provided within mainstream schools, LEAS, to varying degrees, developed separate LEA special schools and, increasingly, special education units or special education resources within mainstream schools; LEAs also paid for some students to be educated in independent special schools.

Since that time, the general primary and secondary education system has changed considerably. LEAs have been abolished and education at local level is the responsibility of the local authority (LA). Management, including financial management, of state schools was delegated to individual schools following the Education Reform Act 1988, which also introduced a national curriculum. The powers of school governing bodies have also been increased. The 1988 reforms were followed by increasingly reduced powers of LAs and greater independence of schools, particularly secondary schools (11-16 or 18 years) following the White Paper “Choice and Diversity” of the Conservative government (Her Majesty's Government, 1992), these two principles have been embraced, albeit with some differences in interpretation, by all major political parties. Over 70% of secondary schools and over a quarter of primary schools, have become academies, which are state schools funded directly by the Department for Education (DfE) in England, but outside LA control, and under a system of regional commissioners. For a discussion see Black et al. (2019), this Research Topic. Groupings of academies have developed as Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). This may bring economies of scale, but dilute the move toward schools having greater autonomy and power. As Leo et al. (2010) wrote based on case study research in early academies

“As academy chains become longer, the scope for independent, energetic principals to put their own necessarily idiosyncratic stamp on an academy is reduced.” (p. 201).

Furthermore, the governance structures of the whole educational system have become more varied and complicated, with the movement to academisation argued to be profoundly undemocratic and inequitable (Keddie, 2017). The “choice and diversity” approach to education has been criticized strongly as an approach that treats education as a commodity. A number of authors have presented evidence to suggest that academies are accepting students who are wealthier and excluding the neediest students (Academies Commission, 2013). There are also indications that some academies are preferring to accept students with higher levels of attainment at the transfer from primary to secondary school (Wilson, 2011). These developments go to the heart of the question: do parents actually have more choice along with this clear evidence of greater diversity. Indeed, the legislation provides for expressing choice as a preference, rather than guaranteeing that such “choices” will be provided.

The analysis by Black et al. (2019) indicates that the proportion of students with SEN in Academies (which now make up about two thirds of secondary schools) has reduced at a faster rate than LA maintained schools since 20121. However, proportions of students with SEN (at the levels of severity of either SEN support or having statement/Education Health and Care (EHC) plan) in Academies are marginally greater than in maintained schools. Also, the proportion of students with a statement or EHC plan in free schools has increased but is less than mainstream schools. Hence, the picture is now unclear: there are several possible reasons for these trends but whatever the overall trend, the issue remains that Academies and free schools have greater autonomy and decision making ability than LA schools. How does this relate to parents' choice when the Academies Commission (2013) reported that, despite then legislation (Academies Act 2010) seeking to achieve “absolute parity” between LA schools and academies, parents do not have the same right of redress regarding academies? Also, judges for the First-tier Tribunal [Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)] commented that the potential for academies to refer Tribunal decisions to the Secretary of State resulted in complexity. Furthermore, this is not only a question of the law per se, but also one of practicality for parents. Legal cases take time and parents may be in a “no win” situation, as during this (often protracted) period their child is not receiving appropriate help. Examples include the struggles of parents when seeking to challenge decisions regarding whether their child has SEN, the nature and/or appropriate provision necessary (see Cullen and Lindsay, 2019: this Research Topic).

In addition to the effect of these macro changes in the school system, there have been major changes in support services. Educational psychologists have played a central role in identifying the SEN of children and young people and advising parents and schools on intervention for over 100 years. Developments in the 1930s and 1950s focused on clinic based services but, especially from the 1970s onward, educational psychologists became community, and in particular school focused (Desforges and Lindsay, 2018). Recently, the delivery of educational psychology services has also become more shaped by marketization with new relationships needed, not just within LA systems, but between the LA and independent academies or multi-academy trusts. One aspect that has caused concern is the ethical question of who is the primary client: is it the child (and parents) or the academy/MAT with which the educational psychology service has a contract?


Before the Warnock Report and the subsequent changes brought about by the Education Act 1981, the focus of SEN legislation, the Education Act 1944, was on ‘formal procedures for ascertainment including the medical, and in Scotland, the psychological examination of the child, which were designed for use when parents either objected to or might be expected to object to their child's attending a special school’ (para 4.25). By contrast, the Warnock Committee proposed a very different approach:

“We have insisted throughout this report that the successful education of children with special educational needs is dependent upon the full involvement of their parents: indeed, unless the parents are seen as equal partners in the educational process the purpose of our report will be frustrated.” (para 9.1).

The story of the past 40 years is that of a rocky path toward realizing this aim, with many frustrations along the way. However, the Report laid a foundation for many of the positive developments that have occurred (Wolfendale, 1999). These include greater awareness of the need for and provision of greater sensitivity with which parents are informed of their child's disability or SEN; the need for greater provision of information and advice; and practical interventions including parents who are supported through workshops, toy libraries and visiting teachers; and, importantly, that the LEA should have the powers by amendment of the Education Act 1944 (section 4) ‘to require the multi-professional assessment of children of any age (after due notice to parents) and to impose a duty on them to comply with a parental request for such an assessment’ (para 4.28). These changes were designed to improve communication, support and also address parents' right to be included in decisions about their child and their SENs: identification, assessment and provision. However, some aims (and hopes) of the Committee have not so far been successfully achieved, for example that:

“With continuing good relationships between parents, local education authorities and others concerned in the discussion and assessment of a child's special educational needs, we hope that the arrangements could normally be conducted by agreement and without formality (emphasis added).”(Department for Education Science, 1978: para 4.28).

Following Circular 1/83, a Code of Practice has accompanied subsequent legislation, in 1994, 2001 and 2015, which successfully amended the guidance with the most recent legislation. The first Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (Department for Education, 1994) was introduced in 1994, pursuant to the Education Act 1993. This was the first government publication that provided guidance to LEAs and school governing bodies in particular, but also to professionals and to parents, on the interpretation and implementation of the SEN legislation. This Code included guidance on the role of parents providing “advice” along with medical advice, educational advice and psychological advice from an educational psychologist. Thus, parents were invited to contribute their views. Gradually, their role became more supported through the work of educational psychologists, working with them to identify their child's needs and by third sector organizations and parent support organizations. However, the Committee's hopes for positive and informal collaborations with the LEA were not always developed and the Education Act 1993 set up a Special Educational Needs Tribunal to hear appeals from parents unhappy with the provision being made, or proposed to be made, for their child.

The 2001 Code of Practice (Department for Education Skills, 2001) considered parents in the fourth of its five principles, including the importance parents now were seen as having, stating that “parents have a vital role to play in supporting their child's education” (para 1.5). Furthermore, special education professionals and parents working in partnership, and special education professionals taking into account the views of individual parents in respect to their child's particular needs, were two of the 10 success factors identified in the 2001 Code of Practice (para 1.6).

These principles were expanded upon and concrete examples were provided to include, for example, the requirement that LEAs make arrangements for parent partnership services, which met minimum standards and must inform parents of the services how to access them. Disagreement resolution services should be introduced, informal at this stage, and not a statutory requirement, but to be seen as independent of the LEA and credible by parents and the child, with detailed guidance on their roles and responsibilities (para 2.31—see below, Disagreement Resolution).

These developments, built on the legislation that followed the Warnock Report, were very positive in intent: the rights of parents, and also children and young people with SEN themselves, were increased; services to support both parents and their children received the backing of these Codes. However, the reality was not so positive. Parents' use of the appeal process to the SEN Tribunal increased steadily from 1,170 in its first year 1994/5 (Special Educational Needs Tribunal, 1995) to 3772 in 2002/3, having had a change of name (Special Educational Needs Disability Tribunal, 2004). With some fluctuation the rate of appeals continued to increase (Marsh, 2014) and the organization changed again to become the First Tier Tribunal (SEND) in 2008.

Parental concerns about the SEN system grew steadily and the government set up an inquiry under Brian Lamb into parental confidence in the SEN system (Department for Children Schools Families, 2009). The Lamb Inquiry comprehensively set out the frustrations and concerns of parents, and of young people with SEN themselves. These were to influence the development of the 2014 Act. In addition, the Inquiry funded a number of projects, which were found to have a positive influence on increasing parental confidence (Peacey et al., 2010).

Parents and Children's Voice

Over the past 40 years, as has been discussed above, the role of parents has changed. Both legislation and societal expectations have increased parents' rights and their actual engagement in a wide range of aspects of society, including SEN. See Parents section above. In addition, successive legislation and Codes of Practice have improved the rights to young person engagement in decisions about their lives and to enable increased and meaningful involvement and power. Children's voice was the third of five principles of the 2001 Code of Practice: “the views of the child should be sought and taken into account” (Department for Education Skills, 2001, para 1.5).

In the 2015 Code of Practice a substantial proportion of its Principles are clearly focused on the child, along with their parents, for example, para 1.1 states that LAs must (emphasis in original) have regard to:

• “The views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person, and the child's parents.

• The importance of the child or young person, and the child's parents, participating as fully as possible in decisions…”

This section goes on to specify what the principles are designed to support, including participation in decision-making and greater choice ad control over support that is offered.

This has been a major achievement with regard to policy, albeit that it has taken nearly 40 years since the Warnock Report. However, the practical reality has been heavily criticized by the most recent report of the House of Commons Education Committee (2019), in Recommendation 26: “More needs to be done to include children and young people in the writing of their Plans and decision-making about the support they receive…” (p. 87).

Disagreement Resolution

As part of the Education Act 2014, there was a further round of changes intended to improve the SEN system, in particular by early resolution of disputes. The early voluntary system was rarely used and indeed under-provided (Harris et al., 2011). Instead, the 2014 Act introduced a statutory requirement for all LAs to provide systems, with the aims of reducing the number of disagreements about children's SEN and provision to meet those needs of the child, and to improve the resolution of those disagreements when they occurred. The 2015 Code of Practice (Department for Education and Department of Health, 2015) sets out six different elements of disagreement resolution. It also includes the requirement that parents and young people with SEN have the opportunity for formal mediation of their disagreement with the LA, which evidence from the U.S. in particular had indicated could be useful, although the evidence for benefits was mixed (Kuriloff and Goldberg, 1997; Nowell and and, 2007). For example, there was the potential for high levels of cost and consequent reductions in the likelihood of repairing the partnership between the school and the parents (Mueller, 2015). Although voluntary, parents are required to contact the mediation service and to have received mediation advice before they, or a young person with SEN, may appeal to the Tribunal (Department for Education and Department of Health, 2015).

Research into the first 2 years of the implementation of the 2014 Act, however, indicates that mediation can be effective in significantly reducing the number of appeals to the Tribunal and that it is cost effective (Lindsay et al., 2019). However, another strand in that research project indicates that for a minority of parents, the process is highly stressful and not seen as successful (Cullen and Lindsay, 2019: this Research Topic).


In summary, the specific focus on the involvement of parents of children and young people with SEN was a fundamental and positive element of the Warnock Report. The Report set out values-driven principles for this and the initial legislation (Education Act 1981) put these into practice. However, subsequently, the reality for parent involvement has not been straightforward. Instead, refinements have been made in subsequent legislation and guidance through successive codes of practice (for an historical analysis of change between the three Codes see Lehane, 2017). The improvements have been clear, but these have not been experienced as such by all. Parents' right to challenge decisions regarding SEN has been enhanced with disagreement resolution processes intended to resolve disagreements at an early stage—and avoid resort to an appeal to the 1st Tier Tribunal (SEND). However, despite the success of mediation (Lindsay et al., 2019), the Warnock Committee's hope for a primarily informal system for parents to engage continues to be aspirational.

The Development of the System

The Warnock report provided the basis for both the policy and practical implementation of the SEN system, first put into law through the Education Act 1981. The administrative system was set out in Chapter 3 of the Report, primarily section III, and in detail in Chapter 4. Following the Education Act 1981, a statutory system, based on the Warnock Report and building upon previous practice (see above) was very prescriptive—up to a point. Proposals for processes of identification of children with SEN (called “discovery” in the Report), assessment and the forms, recording and statistical returns were set out. However, as Mary Warnock later argued, there were no criteria specified for who would be eligible for a statement (Warnock, 2005). The reference in the report was to the proportion of students in special schools at that point in time, about 2 per cent. Warnock also, in her 2005 reflections on SEN and the impact of the report of the committee she chaired, raised concerns about the move away from referring to “conditions” and the use of diagnoses and the focus on needs. Indeed, she states that statements “were an idea that ensued from the 1970s Committee of Inquiry, so I personally feel a degree of responsibility for what has turned out to be not a very bright idea” (p. 27). See section Categorization of SEN for more discussion.

Warnock's 2005 concerns reflected the two reports of the Audit Commission (2002) which led to the government's White Paper “Removing Barriers to Achievement” (Department for Education Skills, 2004), which listed four points made in these reports, namely that:

• Too many children waited too long for provision

• Children were being turned away from mainstream schools despite being entitled to attend them if so wished by their parents

• Special schools were uncertain of their role

• There was too much variation between different LAs with respect to provision (see Warnock, 2005, p. 33).

But concerns still remain, as discussed in this Research Topic. Lamb (2019, this Research Topic) argues that the underlying legal structure, built on the proposals in the Warnock report, has remained, including now the Children and Families Act 2014 (Department for Education, 2014). However, he argues that legislation establishing a child or young person's right to specified levels of resource has risked undermining adequate provision and parental confidence in the SEND framework and that this is a dilemma of the SEND system. He proposes a less market led approach in schools and other settings. He also argues for less reliance on statutory assessments (of individual children) and, rather, to develop the education system to meet more children's needs. This resonates with the argument that supporting language development is a public health concern because of its fundamental role in requiring an effective universal system to optimize all children's progress (Law, 2019: this Research Topic, see Development of the System below).

As part of this critique, Lamb reviewed the use of statements (now EHC plans). Lamb argues that there are major problems with the SEN process, including LAs meeting the 20 week deadline and achieving the engagement of health and social care services in the assessment process (Ofsted, 2018). Despite their being generally popular with parents of children who had them (Adams et al., 2017), almost a third of professionals did not consider the EHC plans were better than the replaced statements in conveying the needs of children and young people (Palikara et al., 2019). Furthermore, there is a substantial variation in parents' satisfaction with the process (Adams et al., 2018), with some parents having high dissatisfaction (Cullen and Lindsay, 2019, this Research Topic). Furthermore, Castro-Kemp et al. (2019, this Research Topic) argue that the quality of EHC plans in their study was generally low although it was higher for children in special settings and also for more affluent LAs in their sample than in authorities with higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. In particular, the plans were particularly weak with respect to the children's outcomes. Overall, this study suggests the presence of significant social inequity with the use of EHC plans.

Norwich (2019, this Research Topic) also provides a critique of the SEND system and proposes an innovative approach to address the problems identified. Norwich's critique stresses the importance of considering provision for children and young people with SEN, whom he describes as “hard to define,” within the context of general educational policy (see above). He argues that “while the Warnock Report's thinking about the SEN concept recognized a basic dilemma about the identification of some children as needing additional or different provision, it did not address it in its analysis of the education system and recommendations” (p. 2). With respect to the current system, Norwich argues that, although “the new SEN code recognizes the relationship between individual EHC plans and population needs for provision planning purposes, there is no clear operational system that connects these foci” (p. 4). He therefore argues for a broader policy framework, that considers the interconnectedness of SEN and disability education with education as a whole; and that there should also be a balance between individualized and provision-focused approaches. His analysis leads to a proposal for the formation of an Education Framework Commission, which would work on the basis that the creation of policy requires the settlement that reconciles contrary value positions.

Joined Up Services

The importance of collaboration between education, health and social care services, was stressed in the Warnock Report. This point has been made continuously throughout the subsequent period (e.g., Bercow, 2008) and the series of Codes of Practice (in 1994, 2001, and 2015) have set out detailed proposals and requirements. It is arguable, however, that such collaborations are still far from optimized. One important impediment is the dispersion of schools in multi-academy trusts, as a result of which the MAT system does not link up with the health, social service and voluntary and community services provision within an LA area. Castro-Kemp et al. (2019, this Research Topic) in their analysis of the quality of statement and EHC plans, argue that a public health approach is required, i.e., not a separation of education and health (or social care) analysis and proposed action but an overall “health” approach, subsuming the other strands. Law (2019, this Research Topic) also argues for a public health approach specifically with respect to children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). He notes that the meeting of children's communication needs resulted in “border disputes” between health and education services regarding responsibility for meeting these children's needs: or, it may be restated as, who will pay? In his paper, Law reviews the substantial raising of the profile of SLCN through the Bercow Review of provision for children and young people with SLCN (Bercow, 2008); the government's acceptance of all the Bercow recommendations (Department for Children Schools Families, 2009); and the research that fed into the review (Lindsay et al., 2010), and the major research programme commissioned after the review, the Better Communication Research Programme 2009–2012 (Lindsay et al., 2012; Dockrell et al., 2014). A review, “Bercow: 10 Years On,” identified the positive developments with respect to SLCN but also indicated areas requiring further progress, including improvements in joined up thinking across education, health and social care (ICAN Royal College of Speech Language Therapists, 2018).

Categorization of SEN

The Warnock Report provided a critique of the SEN labels then used to categorize children and young people with SEN. Their argument for moving away from these labels was set out within their proposed framework, not least that each label implied a continuation of the existing dichotomous thinking of “handicapped” and “non-handicapped.” The Committee was also pragmatic, arguing that “for the sake of convenience descriptive terms will be needed for particular groups of children who require special educational provision” (para 3.2.6). The Report argued for the continuation of some (“physical or sensory disabilities seem acceptable”) but against others (“maladjusted” and “educationally subnormal”) and in favor of the use of “learning difficulties,” with different adjectives indicating severity or specificity. What is consistent is the clear rejection of “medical” labels implying “conditions.”

Subsequently, this general approach has been continued (e.g., “moderate learning difficulties”) but there has been a continuing pressure from parents to use “condition” labels, in particular of dyslexia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Also, whereas in education the term “speech, language, and communication needs” (SLCN) is the term used by the DfE and educationalists in general, the use of terms such as specific language impairment (SLI) and now developmental language disorder (DLD) have been favored, in health and speech and language therapy in particular (Bishop et al., 2017). However, category labels can be powerful in a broader socio-political sense, for example in the creation and development of organizations in the voluntary and community sector. These may provide advocacy, resources, direct support and, increasingly in the UK, a replacement of the delivery of public services, e.g., charities such as Mencap, National Deaf Children's Society, Afasic, and ICAN. Also parents may seek certain labels such as ASD or dyslexia in order to access resources.

Dockrell et al. (2019, this Research Topic) provide an illuminating study regarding the interaction between provision to meet children's needs and the identified primary need category they are attributed. Using individual data from children in 74 mainstream primary and secondary schools they report that children whose primary special need was identified as ASD had greater levels of support provided, including speech and language therapy, than children with DLD despite the latter group performing significantly poorer on measures of language and literacy.

Furthermore, the preceding discussion in this section has focused on the young person whereas our conceptualization of SEN is that special needs arise as a result of factors within the child interacting with the context(s) in which they live (environment) and these interactions change over time: trajectories and time will also vary between children and young people (Wedell and Lindsay, 1980; Lindsay and Desforges, 1998; McKean et al., 2015). With respect to context, this ranges from the micro level, for example interactions in a classroom, to national and international levels, including culture, ethnicity and language. Since the Warnock Report, these factors have become increasingly recognized as important: For example, the varying prevalence rates of different SEN within England in relation to ethnicity (see Variation in Prevalence, below). Also, these issues of ethnicity, second language and SEN, and their interaction, have become increasingly important across Europe and indeed worldwide with the increase in migration; for example, the relationship between multicultural diversity and special needs education (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2009; Lindsay et al., 2016).

Provision—From Integration to Inclusion

Beyond the implementation of an administrative system for assessing and determining how to meet the needs of children with SEN and disabilities, there must also be consideration of the functioning of the provision made to support the children and young people. The Warnock report built upon existing practice to propose a presumption of integration of children with SEN within mainstream schools. This, as compared with segregated provision in separate special schools, was a consistent theme throughout the report. It was also in line with the Report's proposed conceptual framework for SEN specifying that needs, including special educational needs, should be considered as being on a continuum, not a dichotomy of handicap vs. non-handicap or SEN vs. non-SEN. Policy and practice developed with integration as central in consideration of provision, although the term changed to “inclusion.” This was not simply semantic but reflected a conceptual and ideological change from a child being integrated into a school to a school including the child. This was an important conceptual difference whereby children were seen as belonging within a group (inclusion) rather than as outsiders admitted into an existing group (integration).

Both Lamb (2019) and Norwich (2019) and a number of other contributors to the Research Topic relate their discussions of the existing systems to inclusion policy. Inclusion is an important driver of current policy, not only in the UK but also internationally (UNICEF, 2007), although it is important to keep in mind that there was a period from 2010 in England when the Coalition Government of the Conservative and Liberal parties, developed policies which played down or, at least in part, actively opposed the development of inclusion. The trend of a reduction in the proportion of children in special schools, which had already flattened out at 1.12% started to reverse and then steadily increase, reaching 1.38% in 2018. However, the number of special schools only fell from 1160 in 2003 to 1032 in 2013, rising slightly to 1043 in 2018 (Black, 2019, this Research Topic). This must also be seen in parallel with the static percentage of children with statements at 2.8% (2007–2017: Department for Education, 2018), resulting in an increase in the proportion of children with statements and EHC plans, whose needs are met in mainstream schools.

However, inclusion is not just an issue of location. Rather it is a process, of the relationship between the needs of a child with the overall provision, including the curriculum, pedagogy, resources, of interpersonal relationships with other children (typically developing children and also others with SEN); and also relationships with adults (teachers, teaching assistants (TAs) and others in the school, and external support professionals)—see Lindsay (2007). We consider the research base for inclusion below.


The Warnock Report was written in the context of the difficult financial circumstances in England at the time, noting that “we have throughout our work been acutely aware of the financial constraints in central and local government” (para 19.3). The Committee did, however, state that “we recognize that some of our key proposals will require substantial additional expenditure over the next few years and beyond” (para 19.3). Their strategy was not to attempt to cost proposals, not least because the data available were limited and unreliable, but rather the Committee set out main priorities for action. These were:

• The new conceptual framework within which special educational provision should be made

• Early education (pre-5 years) to increase provision, involve parents, including as educators; extensions of peripatetic teachers for all types of disability disorder, and the provision of professional help and advice from advisory services.

• The provision for young people with SEN aged 16 plus

• Special education advisory and support centers and

• Teacher training, both initial and post-qualification continuing professional development.

The Committee also called for direct or indirect government funding for at least one university department of special education in each region of the country (Department for Education Science, 1978: para 8.3), the formation of a Special Educational Research Group (para 8.11), and a Special Education Staff College (para 8.18).

Over the last 40 years, there has been a substantial growth in numbers of researchers in SEN, although the number of SEN departments as such is relatively limited in England. The major change has been the development of early years provision. Post-16 provision waited for a major change until the Education Act 2014, which includes young people up to 25 years. Changes in initial teacher training per se, however, have been many and fundamental, with the closure of training colleges and the movement of most training into the schools, supported by universities. However, the amount of SEN training during initial training is limited. The creation of a national inspection service, Ofsted, has been associated with a major reduction in LA advisory work, which has largely been delegated to schools to organize. However, there has been a major growth in the provision in universities of SEN courses and staff, and also of research (see Research Development).

However, the financial difficulties noted in the Warnock report have increased steadily, associated with SEN system, its administration and also the provision made for the children and young people. This is despite education being relatively protected financially during the UK government's austerity driven period: spending in 2017–2018 was about £53 billion, about the same in real terms as during 2009–2010 and substantially higher than 2000–2001 when it was £35 billion (all at 2017–2018 prices: Kelly et al., 2018). However, the school population has grown over this time.

The high-needs education budget for children with statements or EHC plans in England (£5.5 billion in 2017–2018) has increased by 8% in real terms since 2013–2014. This funds provision for students with a statement of SEN or an EHC plan, currently the first £6000 coming from the budget of the mainstream school, topped up by the LA to provide additional support, bringing the additional funding to about £10,000 per student; sums will vary with individual needs. Pressures on the financial system have come from a number of sources. Population growth and medical advances contribute, but the percentage of children and young people with statements or EHC plans was stable at 2.8% for 11 years (2007–2017) (see above) but has increased in the past 2 years to 3.1% (Department for Education, 2019a). However, LAs and schools have experienced reductions in available resources. For example, although schools were protected during austerity, the rest of the LA was hit with massive reductions in available resources. This has led to services being cut. In addition, family poverty has increased, there has been an extension of services to young people with SEN and disabilities to 25 years (Perera, 2019), and the overall school population has increased (National Audit Office, 2019b).

At the same time, there have been important changes in the profile of expenditure with respect to type of need: the largest increase has been for students with ASD. Whereas, the total number of students with a statement or EHC plan between 2012 and 2017 increased for primary aged students by 3,900, the increase for ASD alone was 4,700 students: this was offset by reductions for some other SEN categories, primarily moderate learning difficulty (−1000), social, emotional and mental health (−800), and specific learning difficulty (−400). At secondary the total number of students with a Statement or EHC plan reduced by about 9000 (with reductions particularly for moderate learning difficulties [−3900], and specific learning difficulty [−2600], but those with ASD increased by 900. But the largest change was for special schools, which show an increase overall of about 17,300 students (92,900 in 2012 to 110,200 in 2017) and an increase for students with ASD of about 10,900, an increase of about 63 per cent, compared with an increase of the total special school population of just 19% (Kelly et al., 2018, Table 4.3).

In summary, the Warnock report made no financial proposals. Understandably, given the range of issues covered and the limited data available, the Committee focused on priorities for development, but with no financial analysis. What is apparent is that in England currently there are major challenges to the SEN system and these pressures are increasing with respect to children and young people with statements or EHC plans. The government has recognized this and the then Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, announced an additional £350 million to support the high-needs budget for children with complex SEN and disabilities on 6 December 2018; and announced a consultation on financial arrangements for children and young people with SEN and those needing alternative provisions, on 3 May 2019. This has not, however, prevented substantial expressions of concern from parents and special education organizations.

Research Development

The Warnock Report included a short (seven pages) chapter on research and development in special education. Webster (2019b, this Research Topic) examines the Report's proposal, with particular reference to improving teachers' relationships with research and usage of research findings; revisiting the Report's research priorities, particularly improving school-based research; and considering current research priorities, in particular using “big data.”

The support for SEN research has grown greatly with a large increase in research teams for SEN and also the appointment of professors with responsibility for SEN (including the three editors of this Research Topic), a substantial change from the solitary professorial post held by Ron Gulliford at the time of the report. Training of educational psychologists is now at doctoral level so all educational psychologists now must have conducted substantial research projects in order to qualify, providing a large and increasing pool of research trained staff in LAs or in independent educational psychology organizations. This is a substantial resource. The use of big data has increased. In addition to large scale cohort studies (Dockrell and Hurry, 2018; Law et al., 2018) the DfE's National Pupil Database has provided an important resource which has led to studies of the total English state school population including the relationship between SEN and demographic factors, for example ethnicity (Strand and Lindsay, 2009; Lindsay and Strand, 2016; Strand and Lindorff, 2018).

A caution, however, is to ensure a proper approach of the limits as well as strengths of such studies. For example, there is a need for recognition of the interaction between factors including gender, social disadvantage, ethnicity, and English as an additional language. It is also important to explore reasons for the results of such large scale quantitative research, for example by also undertaking combined (mixed) research methods. Furthermore, caution is needed when interpreting these large scale (e.g., cohort) studies as they typically include measures which provide limited data on key educational characteristics and poor operationalisation of variables such as English as an additional language. In addition, despite their large samples, these studies may be underpowered to identify outcome results for children with different types of SEN (Strand and Lindorff, 2018).

The creation of the Education Endowment Foundation, with its substantial research funding budget, has enabled an increase in the number and size of studies of educational effectiveness within the UK. Since 2019 the EEF has included a focus on interventions for children and young people with SEN, and a major review of the effectiveness of teaching approaches for students with SEN (Cullen et al., 2019), on the basis of which guidance to all schools on teaching students with SEN and disabilities will be produced (Education Endowment Foundation, in development).

Early Intervention

One area of positive growth, but with caveats, is early intervention. The Warnock Report put emphasis on the identification of SEN and intervention in the early years (Chapter 5). The Committee also proposed assessments for all children of seven to 8 years of age and later at secondary in order to identify children with SEN. They were not in favor of focusing only on children considered “at risk”—correctly, as research was demonstrating the limitations of the approach (Wedell and Lindsay, 1980; Lindsay and Wedell, 1982). This approach became national policy with the initial introduction of “baseline assessment” of all children in reception classes of state schools in England (four to 5 years old). However, research commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority identified serious limitations with the approach then taken, including the use of over 90 different baseline assessment schemes and the absence of evidence for the technical quality of all but a handful of the schemes (Lindsay and Lewis, 2003). Subsequently, baseline assessment has had a checkered development and is currently in a new intervention development phase (Department for Education, 2019b).

With respect to children with intellectual disability, a systematic review by Schuengel et al. (2019, this Research Topic) indicates that the main areas of research over the four decades since the Warnock Report have been: (i) syndrome and disorder related studies; (ii) autism-related studies; and disability and parent related studies. Overall, research topics related to autism and, to a lesser extent, parents showed the greatest increase over this period. This supports the findings of Bishop (2010) in her review of research funding for neurodevelopmental disorders that the growth in research was “exceptionally steep” for autism and ADHD (p. 1).

With respect to early intervention there has been substantial development, with both research and policy. The relationship between early risk factors and later outcomes has been clearly demonstrated by many studies (see Allen, 2011a, for an overview) with evidence of the relative cost effectiveness of early intervention (Allen, 2011b; Heckman, 2016). This includes the use of parenting programmes for parents of children with, or at risk of developing, behavior difficulties (Sanders, 1999; Nowack and Heinrichs, 2008), which have also been effective when rolled out on a national basis (Lindsay et al., 2011; Lindsay and Strand, 2013); effectiveness that can be maintained when delivered as part of regular service delivery (Gray et al., 2018). Furthermore, within the UK there has been cross-party political support for early intervention (Allen and Duncan Smith, 2008); the setting up of the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) which has produced substantial evidence and guidelines for practice (e.g., Asmussen et al., 2016; Taylor et al., 2019); and recently a report of the House of Commons Science Technology Committee (2018) “Evidence-based early years intervention” chaired by Norman Lamb.

Inclusive Education

Lindsay (2007) argued that the case for inclusive education might be made on two different bases: the rights of the child and the efficacy of inclusive education. He also argued that the former was the most common reason propounded for inclusion. Lindsay undertook a large scale literature review of 1,373 papers in eight major special education journals over the previous 5 years finding that only 14 (1.0%) addressed the efficacy of inclusion and that, of these, the evidence was only marginally positive. Subsequent studies have provided some additional positive evidence, for example a positive effect on non-SEN peers (e.g., Szumski et al., 2017), but again this was weak. However, the difficulty in researching efficacy must be recognized (Lindsay, 2003). This is a function of the complexity of the concept, which in turn requires a range of measures across domains; the range of settings (from groups to “classroom,” to school, college or early years settings; and the chronological time period necessary for meaningful results to be gathered.

Currently, therefore, the main case for inclusive education is based on children's rights, just as it was for the Warnock Report. One argument against efficacy or effectiveness research is that the rights argument is enough. Another is that “inclusion” is such a diverse variable that research questions must be more specific in order to explore how to optimize the implementation of what is already a generally accepted policy (see Lindsay, 2003), although in England the Coalition Government set out its policy on special educational needs and disability, including the statement, “We will remove the bias toward inclusion” (Department for Education, 2011).

Education Workforce

Since the Warnock Report there have been major changes in the training of teachers in general, from the primary providers of higher education institutions to the focus on schools supported by HEIs and others. Teachers in mainstream schools have often felt under supported but the Department for Children, Schools and Families under the New Labor government undertook a multifaceted initiative to trial and evaluate a number of approaches to improving the knowledge, skills, attitude and confidence of mainstream teachers with respect to students with SEN. Evaluation of the initiative was positive with respect to the range of constituent elements including curriculum development, specialist qualifications for teachers of students with sensory impairment; and support for students in initial teacher training (ITT) through a Toolkit; placements in special schools and specialist provision (Lindsay et al., 2011). The 2011 Green Paper, setting out the government's intention for SEN, included a substantial focus on teachers, ITT and continuing professional development, in recognition of the importance of teachers and teaching assistants for improving SEND provision (Department for Education, 2011).

In this research topic, Lindner et al. (2019) report a large scale study of 872 4th grades in 47 inclusive classes in Germany. They found that whereas students rated their teachers as using inclusive instructional practice (namely personalization and differentiation) there was a lack of evidence that the teachers differed strongly in their teaching practices at the student level; and that students' ratings did not significantly predict teachers' ratings of inclusive teaching practices. Egelund and Dyssegaard (2019, this Research Topic) report in Denmark that the development of inclusion has been hindered by regulations and incentives for exclusion. However, the introduction of positive incentives for inclusion and a change in the concept of special education have radically changed the situation toward increased inclusion.

Two of the post-Warnock developments in England to support inclusion that have experienced a good deal of research concern special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and teaching assistants (TAs: referred to as paraprofessionals in the U.S.). SENCOs were introduced with the Education Act 1993 and the first Code of Practice (Department for Education, 1994). Since 2008, SENCOs must be a qualified teacher and those appointed since September 1st 2009 must gain a Masters-level National Award in SEN Coordination within 3 years of appointment. SENCOs are a statutory requirement for all state schools in England. They have day-to-day responsibility for the operation of SEND policy within the school and also for the specific provision necessary to support students with SEN and disabilities. Over time, their role has gradually changed from coordination to determining SEND policy and provision in each school, in conjunction with the head teacher and governing body. Esposito and Carroll (2019, this Research Topic) identify four main characteristics of their role from a study of SENCOs attending the Award, namely: the diversity of SENCOs practice, engagement with assessment designed to be meaningful, e.g., for intervention, the adaption and implementation of evidence informed practice, and the evaluation of interventions. SENCOs provide a large and potentially very important workforce for SEND but there are barriers. For example SENCOs in primary schools frequently do not have the proposed status or influence or time necessary (Wedell, 2017; House of Commons Education Committee, 2019).

Whereas, the Warnock Report made limited reference to non-teaching staff, the growth in the number of TAs has been substantial, now representing 27.8% of the national school workforce in English schools, over a quarter of a million (Department for Education, 2018) compared with 47.7% who are teachers. A major growth area has been the use of TAs to support children with statements or EHC plans. However, there have been concerns about the effectiveness of TAs (Webster et al., 2011), including the support of children with SEN for scaffolded and independent learning, when the TA then is effectively “attached” to the child, known as a “Velcro TA” model. This is explored by Vivash and Morgan (2019, this Research Topic).


Whilst there has been much researcher and practitioner interest in developing inclusion, and indeed from parents and young people and adults with SEN or disabilities, it is apparent that there have also been substantial barriers to developing inclusive practice. An extreme issue concerns children's exclusion from school (House of Commons Education Committee, 2018). In this case, children with SEN are even more disadvantaged (Paget et al., 2018). Interestingly, the Warnock report mentioned exclusion only once, with respect to children with emotional and behavioral difficulties. In reference to the Pack report in Scotland on truancy and indiscipline in schools, the Warnock report states that, “in many cases unruliness in pupils is a symptom of special educational needs” and that these should be met “within our framework of special educational provision” (para 11.62).

Daniels et al. (2019, this Research Topic) argue that exclusion of young people with SEN is related to “the nascent tension between policies designed to achieve excellence and those seeking to achieve inclusive practice” (p. 10). Perverse incentives, they argue, arise from policy changes in England in particular, driven by economic objectives not to meet the needs of students with SEN and disabilities. A possible result is their exclusion from school.

Permanent exclusions from schools in England have increased greatly in recent years, following a reduction between 1997/98 and 2012/13, although they are still below the level of 2006/07 (Timpson, 2019). A similar pattern is found for fixed period exclusion. The annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills highlights that the most likely to be excluded or off-rolled (see below) are the most vulnerable students (Ofsted, 2018). This is also stressed in the Timpson review of exclusions in general:

“78% of permanent exclusions were to pupils who either had SEN, were classified in need or were eligible for free school meals. 11% of permanent exclusions were to pupils who had all three characteristics.” (Timpson, 2019, p. 10).

Furthermore, Timpson's review found evidence of students being made to leave their school without access to the formal exclusion process, a practice known as “off-rolling,” thereby not having access to the formal exclusion process and the structure and safeguards this provides. Also pernicious is that this process does not trigger the processes to ensure that suitable alternative education is provided by the sixth day of exclusion as required by law. Reasons for these developments include: zero tolerance in schools; paucity of external support, including educational psychologists; the effects of school league tables which are attainment based; curriculum measures with high stakes testing; overall levels of funding schools; and also “a policy mind set which disagrees with inclusion” (Daulby, 2019).

As well as active exclusion of children from school, there are also concerns about non-attendance. Early research clearly demonstrated that this was not simply an issue only of truancy, i.e., students' decisions not to attend school, but was often, and particularly so with chronic non-attendance, linked to major socioeconomic disadvantage and family stress, (Galloway, 1982) or school factors (Galloway et al., 1985): see also Humm Patnode et al. (2018) for a recent comprehensive review. In England, DfE statistics indicate that the most recent absence rate (2017–2018) was 4.8% overall, mostly authorized (3.5%) with unauthorized at 1.4% (Department for Education, 2019c). Persistent absenteeism accounts for 32.4% of all authorized absence and more than half of unauthorized absence. Furthermore, persistent absence is more than double for students in special schools. These data indicate that vulnerable students, those with SEN in particular, are at further risk as they miss out on schooling, which compounds their difficulties resulting from their SEN. Melvin et al. (2019, this Research Topic) provide a rigorous multifactorial approach to the development and maintenance of absenteeism. They propose a biological systems framework, the Kids and Teens at School (KiTeS) framework which is inclusive of students with and without SEN or disabilities, to improve conceptualization of the complex nature of absenteeism and exclusion.

The development of an inclusive education system, therefore, while being an education policy that has large scale support internationally, continues to struggle. Many initiatives to increase inclusivity of schools have occurred, and it is noteworthy that almost half (47.9%) of children and young people in England with EHC plans are in mainstream school (National Audit Office, 2019a). However, there are also serious concerns, including exclusions and the amount of finance available to meet identified needs.

Prevalence of Special Educational Needs

The Warnock Report provided an important summary of the challenges in determining prevalence of SEN: these challenges remain pertinent today and are intrinsic to both the concept of “handicap,” as used in the Report and to its replacement, SEN. Nevertheless, the Warnock Report was important for identifying a number of key issues, supported by then current research, and their implications.

The basic indicator of prevalence in the Warnock Report was the proportion of students attending separate special provision, namely special schools or special classes designated as such LEAs and those students who had “been placed by LEAs in independent schools catering wholly or mainly for handicapped pupils, were boarded in homes, were receiving education otherwise than at school or were awaiting admission to special schools” (para 3.7). This criterion, based on provision, was recognized as insufficient but produced an estimate of 1.8% in England, with a similar estimate of 1.4% in Scotland. However, the limitations of these estimates included: substantial variation between different LAs and also within LAs; urban areas having higher prevalence than rural areas with small towns (Rutter et al., 1975); variations in times spent by students who were part time in special provision; rates of “ascertainment” of “handicap” (the legal process); and use of different criteria of need. In addition, the then recent study of all students aged between 9 and 11 years on the Isle of Wight indicated students often had two or more areas of need and therefore a single “handicap” category was inappropriate (Rutter et al., 1970). Furthermore, consideration of this research together with the National Child Development Study (Pringle et al., 1966), and with discussions with teachers and estimates by the Inner London Education Authority, led to the recommendation that:

“The planning of services for children and young people should be based on the assumption that about one in six children at any one time and up to one in five children at some time during their school career will require some form of special educational provision” (Department for Education Science, 1978: para 3.17)

In summary, the Warnock Committee argued for the change from a focus on single “handicap” criteria to a system based on the concept of special educational needs, and provided the basis for a broader conceptualization of prevalence. Hence, this new approach formed the foundation for future measurements of prevalence.

Variation in Prevalence

Over the subsequent 40 years or so, the estimation of prevalence of SEN has benefitted from this reconceptualization and also the introduction in England of the school census and the National Pupil Database (NPD). These have resulted in data on all children and young people in state schools, including SEN data, and the distinction between primary need and secondary need(s) prevalence. Researchers have consequently had a substantial resource, which has allowed levels of prevalence, trends over time, and also the interaction of SEN data with other factors to be explored.

With respect to trends of SEN, the most recent SEN statistics for England (Department for Education, 2019d) indicate that the percentage of children with SEN increased slightly from 2007 to 2010, to just over 20%, then reduced until 2016 before increasing slightly from 14.4 to 14.9% between 2017 and 2019. The percentage of children with a statement of SEN or an EHC plan, which replaced statements following the Children and Families Act 2014, was stable for 11 years from 2007 to 2017 at 2.8%, but increasing to 3.1% in 2019. These data indicate a higher level in 2010 than Warnock's suggested one in six children having SEN at any one time, reducing to below that level now, but a consistently higher level for children with the highest level of SEN, now about 3% to Warnock's 1.8% (see Black, 2019, this Research Topic). However, the 1.8% was specific to the percentage in special schools—see Department for Education Science (1978, para 3.7 to 3.17 for the Warnock Report's discussion of the extent of SEN at the time).

Interrelationships Between SEN and Other Factors

More recent evidence has examined these data more fully, by exploring the variations in prevalence related to age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic disadvantage, and having English as an additional language (EAL). Furthermore, in addition to examining individual relationships between each variable and SEN, research has explored the complex interactions between all factors (intersectionality). For example, the Department for Education and Skills in England commissioned a study which examined the nature of ethnic disproportionality and SEN, which examined the relationship between the different types of SEN and the different major categories of student ethnicity (Lindsay et al., 2006). In addition to analyzing the data derived from the school census on all students in state schools, focus groups with senior officers in LAs explored local experiences of ethnic disproportionality in SEN, trends and possible reasons for these.

In addition, this first comprehensive research on the topic in the UK found that there was a complex interrelationship between ethnicity and different categories of SEN. For example, after controlling for gender, age, socioeconomic disadvantage and EAL, students of Black Caribbean heritage were more likely to be identified with behavioral, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) than White British students were. However, this was not the case for students of Black African heritage, who were not significantly different in the likelihood of having BESD than White British students (Strand and Lindsay, 2009).

Ethnic differences have also been found in prevalence rates of SEN over time, after controlling for other factors as above. For example, the prevalence of students with SLCN aged 5–16 years increased between 2005 and 2011 by 72% overall. However, whereas this increase was 70% for White British students the increase in prevalence was as low as 21% for students of Chinese heritage and as high as 89% for Black African students (Lindsay and Strand, 2016). This work has been developed further and the evidence of ethnic disproportionality has been reinforced: Black Caribbean and Pakistani students are over-represented for moderate learning difficulties (MLD) whereas Indian and Chinese students are under-represented; Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students are substantially over-represented for social, emotional and mental health (SEMH); and all Asian groups (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Other Asian) are substantially under-represented for SEMH and ASD (Strand and Lindorff, 2018).

Age is also an important factor in the prevalence of SLCN, after controlling for the other factors: students in Year 1 were over four times more likely than those in Year 11 to be identified with SLCN (Lindsay and Strand, 2016). Furthermore, the level of prevalence reduced primarily between Year 1 and Year 7, with just a small reduction between Year 8 and Year 11. However, this reduction over age was only found in children and young people at School Action Plus (at the time of the research, this represented children receiving additional, external support but without having a Statement of SEN). The prevalence of students with statements remained approximately consistent (Lindsay and Strand, 2016). Furthermore, patterns of prevalence by age vary for different SEN groups, a phenomenon which Strand and Lindsay's research has demonstrated to be stable year on year and has now been highlighted in the national SEN statistics for England (Department for Education, 2019d). With respect to the four most prevalent types of SEN categories, the year on year prevalence trajectories vary thus: speech, language and communication needs reduces steeply from age 4 years to age 11, then reduces at a lower rate to 15 years; moderate learning difficulties increases from 4 to 10 years and then reduces to 15 years; social, emotional and mental health also increases from 4 to 10 years and then plateaus; and specific learning difficulty rises steadily from 4 to 15 years.

Finally, but importantly, socioeconomic disadvantage has been shown to be the greatest influence overall in terms of proportions of children with SEN (Strand and Lindsay, 2009). Hence, although relationships between SEN and the factors above are very important, it is essential to recognize the level of impact of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Changes in Prevalence of Different Categories of SEN

In our final example we consider changes in prevalence of different categories of SEN. Autism Spectrum Disorder is now the most common frequent primary need of children with a statement or EHC plan: over a quarter (29.0%) in 2019, almost double the prevalence in 2007 (14.6%) whereas the proportion of students with a statement or EHC plan for MLD has decreased over this period from 22.2 to 11.5%, almost by half (Department for Education, 2019a).

Also of interest is that the proportions of students at School Action Plus or SEN support have a different pattern. In 2017, only 2.7% of children with ASD were identified with this level of support whereas for MLD it was 29.6%, over 10 times greater. In 2018 the proportion of students at School Action Plus or SEN support had doubled for ASD (2.7 to 6.2%) whereas for MLD it has reduced, but from 29.6 to 22.8%.

Local Authority and School Factors

Prevalence of SEN is also related to schools and the LA in which students attend school. However, this level of influence is very limited for LAs but more substantial for schools, particularly for MLD. For example, a substantial part of the over-representation of Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students with social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH) is accounted for by differences between the secondary schools they attend (Strand and Lindorff, 2018). In addition, whereas the proportion of students with School Action Plus or SEN Support has been falling generally, as indicated above, this reduction has been greater for Academies than LA secondary schools (Black et al., 2019, this Research Topic).


In summary, research has demonstrated the importance of considering prevalence of SEN in more detail. Whereas, the Warnock report discussed prevalence with respect to two levels of severity, evidence now demonstrates a much more complex picture with prevalence varying in relation to type of SEN, age, gender, and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic disadvantage; and these factors interrelate. In addition to this demonstration of complexity, these data, together with the evidence of more resources proportionately going to children with ASD (than children with SLCN: Dockrell et al., 2019) and more research funding proportionately supporting more research going to ASD than to other neurodevelopmental disorders (Bishop, 2010), there are indications of inequity.

Implications for the Future

From the Warnock Report to the Present

This review of the developments in special educational provision over the 40 years since the publication of the Warnock Report shows that its main principles have been generally established. These include the principle that the aims of education are the same for all children and young people, but that the methods for achieving them may be different. The Warnock Report offers a broad view of these aims, set out in the introduction of this paper. It is significant that these have not been formally set out in the curricular accountability criteria of the current education system. The concept of a continuum of degrees of SEN has been accepted. Whereas, this is appropriate conceptually, in practice concern developed that students were becoming inappropriately classified as having SEN. Ofsted produced an influential review arguing that many children with low attainment were underachieving rather than having SEN and that this was the result of mainstream provision not being of sufficient quality, and expectations of pupils being too low (Ofsted, 2010). Inspection of the national statistics reveals that subsequently there was a decline in the percentage of pupils categorized as having SEN at the School Action or School Action Plus levels of provision (Black, 2019, this Research Topic). Nevertheless, the special educational needs legislation has also been firmly linked with the notion that education for students with SEN is an integral part of general educational provision and, indeed, the Ofsted review supports this argument, although it criticizes the implementation by schools of the identification of SEN. The Warnock Report's orientation toward “inclusion” (then called “integration”) is very similar to that formulated in the successive special needs legislation mentioned earlier in this paper. The 2014 Children and Families Act specifies the three limiting conditions under which children and young people with SEN who do not have an EHC plan can be placed in mainstream schools as having to be “compatible” with:

(a) the child receiving the special educational provision called for by his or her special educational needs; (b) the provision of efficient education for the children with whom he or she will be educated, and; (c) the efficient use of resources (section 35 (3) (a–c) Department for Education, 2014).

These limiting conditions are presented as the limits of what can be expected of schools' capacity for inclusion—and therefore also serve to distinguish provision which is “additional to,” and/or “different from” meeting the more severe forms of SEN. The Codes of Practice issued in conjunction with the successive special needs legislation ever since Circular 1/83 (linked to the 1981 Act) have spelled out the recommended guidance. The austerity financing regime has curtailed schools' and LAs' capacity to observe many of the current Code's recommendations, thus rendering many aspects of this advice “aspirational.” Many of the researches reported in this paper have provided evidence of this state of affairs, and also raised questions about the scope for improving the situation.

There seems to be some hope that the austerity financial regime in England is coming to an end and the previous government proposed additional funding for SEN provision. However, recent reports from both the National Audit Office (2019b) and the House of Commons Education Committee (2019) are highly critical of the current situation for children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

The Education Committee stated that, “We are confident that the 2014 reforms are the right ones” (para 17) but then went on to be critical of many elements of the SEND system, for example finding: “The Department for Education set local authorities up to fail by making serious erosion in both how it administers money intended for change, and also, until recently, failing to provide extra money when it was needed.” (para 2). They go on to say:

“We deeply regret that this spending review process was insufficient in tackling the fundamental challenges facing both children and adults in social care.” (para 24).

A second concern was lack of accountability. Since the Warnock Report, a substantial system of inspection has been set up primarily through Ofsted. Ofsted's responsibilities, initially to inspect schools, has grown considerably and now includes collaborative inspection with the Care Quality Commission, which conducts local area SEND inspections. However, the Education Committee were very critical of the lack of real accountability. The Minister (Nick Gibb) had reported that a new (i.e., better) Ofsted framework was due (September 2019). However, the Education Committee argued that “counting and measuring” were insufficient and questioned the current accountability in the SEND system:

“Nobody appears to be taking any action based on the counting and measuring that is taking place, but even worse, no one appears to be asking anyone to take responsibility for their actions. There appears to be an absence of responsibility for driving any change or holding anyone accountable when change is not happening.” (para 27).

These, and the many other concerns, raise questions about where the priorities for readjustment lie. There is a choice between two main strategies: proposing the “patching up” of the insufficiencies of the current education system, or “changing the system” so that it does not produce the insufficiencies (Wedell, 2008) The first strategy implies an assumption that the current system is acceptable within the over-arching aims and methods of special needs education, and the second implies that more fundamental change is required so that the system does not limit potential advances. The two strategies are of course not mutually exclusive, and in this final section we track two topic areas as examples of where “patching up” initiatives and “system change” notions may be taking us.

Patching Up or System Change?

An example of an intention to “patch up the system” relates to class teachers' current stress and the 2015 Code's demands that they should take on a greater role in the first line response to children and young people's SEN. The Code encourages teachers to use a “graduated approach” to meeting SEN but is not clear how far this should be an ongoing process. This approach has been promoted in preceding Codes, but it is made more explicit in the 2015 Code as a cyclic process of “Assess, plan, do, review.” As such, it is in line with meeting the first of the Act's three limiting conditions for inclusion mentioned above—“compatible with meeting the child's needs” (Department for Education and Department of Health, 2015). This demands teachers have the necessary competencies and that there should be additional teachers' “thinking time,” when they are already having to cope with keeping up the pace of a revised curriculum and head teachers are making staffing cuts. Class teachers have less access to advice and support from SENCOs, because these, particularly in primary schools, are being asked to take on additional class teaching time. A recent National Audit Office (2019b, p. 12) report on support for students with SEN and disabilities has taken some of these points into account in recommending (among others), that the Department for Education should:

“prepare for the next full spending review by making an evidence-based assessment of how much it would cost to provide the system for supporting students with SENDs created by the 2014 reforms,” and

“review the incentives in the funding arrangements and the accountability system, and make changes that encourage and support mainstream schools to be inclusive in terms of admitting, retaining and meeting the needs of pupils with SEND, whether they have EHC plans or require other support.”

These recommendations represent an example of “patching up” a practical problem, while not questioning the general education system's function as a compensatory special needs resource. An increasing concern has however built up as to whether the current education system's curriculum content and pedagogy match twenty-first century children and young people's needs in mainstream schools, let alone those with SEN and disabilities. For example, the Royal Society for the Arts commented in 2002:

“We still have a curriculum model close to the one that prepared students for the much more stable and certain society of the 50s, where we knew what a “subject” was and what you “ought” to know about it” (p. 2).

Wedell (2005) described how some of the rigidities in teaching and learning actually stood in the way of achieving a flexible response to the needs of children and young people with SEN, and even perpetuated the association between student grouping and stigma. Department for Education Skills (2004) stated:

“Inclusion is about much more than the type of school that children attend: it is about the quality of their experience, how they are helped to learn, achieve and participate fully in the life of the school.” (p.24)

This statement about inclusion expands on this point made about inclusive orientation from the Salamanca Statement, coming out of the World Conference on special needs education:

“Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of … achieving education for all” (UNESCO, 1994, para 2.)

However, currently in England, there is substantial concern about the exclusion of children with SEN from mainstream schools. As already noted, the Timpson Review (2019) found that schools differed in their exclusion rates, indicating corresponding differences in the way that schools function. This is particularly relevant in relation to children and young people with SEN, in so far as the report found that 78% of permanently excluded students either had SEN, were classified as in need, or were eligible for free school meals. The review's findings implied that some schools (i.e., those with lower exclusion rates) appeared to be better at responding to students' SEN, but that this was not fairly acknowledged in the league table rankings.

These developments have, not surprisingly, led to interest in “changing the system.” Those concerned are clearly aware that this has to be carried out with due regard to the scale of the endeavor, and its context within the prevailing socioeconomic and political situation (e.g., Norwich and Lunt, 2005). An endeavor can however also be planned at a small scale level, with a correspondingly limited educational focus. The “Opening Minds” curriculum created by the Royal Society of Arts (2019) represents a small-scale approach to the early secondary phase which is now used in over 200 schools, and would seem to be “special education” friendly. It is focused on five competences: citizenship, learning, managing information, relating to people, managing situations. It is reported to enable students not just to acquire subject knowledge, but to understand, use, and apply it in the context of their wider learning and life' Royal Society of Arts (2019). It is also linked with a programme of further professional development for those involved in implementing it (Aynsley et al., 2012). This project, although in some respects controversial, represents an instance of an endeavor for “system change” which promotes the wider educational goals of the Warnock Report.


These examples of “patching up” and “system change” show how the heritage of the Warnock principles can be harnessed. However, the overview of SEND provision in this paper clearly shows that, even beyond the constraints of the financial austerity regime, the level of compensatory resource function for children and young people with SEN of the general education system is inadequate. But this is not only a question of increasing absolute levels of funding, necessary though this is. Changes are needed in the balance of the focus on EHC plans and the non-statutory offer to children and young people with lower, but still important, levels of SEN. Key to this is a shift toward greater prevention, through early intervention, which must also be shaped by both system changes, including greater joined up thinking, and multiprofessional collaborations that are effective and efficient (ICAN and Royal College of Speech and Language ICAN Royal College of Speech Language Therapists, 2018). More has to be achieved in the understanding of children and young people with SEN, and more in the contemporary relevance of the curricular content and pedagogy offered in mainstream schools. Teachers must be empowered with post qualification education opportunities, including curriculum and pedagogic development, which may include knowledge exchange programmes (

There is still a need to create a dynamic and coherent conceptual framework which can bring together the extensive array of existing current ideas for development. The Warnock Report was one attempt to achieve this at a particular time of concern. How this can be achieved now presents a considerable challenge to both the new UK government elected in December 2019, which will develop policy, and the practitioners responsible for the implementation of the policies. The current low-ebb of provision has now engendered a similar strength of concern calling for a body which can provide a lead both in formulating policy and in implementing it. Fortunately, one of the contributors to this Research Topic (Norwich, 2019) sets out a potential scenario for the establishment of such a body.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the conceptualization of the paper, to each draft and approved the final version. GL led the writing team including the conceptualization and writing of the paper overall, the production of drafts and final version. KW and JD led on sections of the paper and contributed to paper overall.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


1. ^Students with significant SEN were categorized as requiring School Action Plus support from the school and visiting professionals or with a Statement of SEN, where the LA has a legal duty to provide support. This system more recently changed to categories of SEN support and Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.


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Keywords: special educational needs (SEN), special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs), SEN disagreement resolution, disproportionality, inclusive education, Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental language disorder

Citation: Lindsay G, Wedell K and Dockrell J (2020) Warnock 40 Years on: The Development of Special Educational Needs Since the Warnock Report and Implications for the Future. Front. Educ. 4:164. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2019.00164

Received: 03 November 2019; Accepted: 30 December 2019;
Published: 29 January 2020.

Edited by:

Brahm Norwich, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Anthea Gulliford, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Roy McConkey, University of Ulster, Ireland

Copyright © 2020 Lindsay, Wedell and Dockrell. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Geoff Lindsay,